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Gaming Gets Physical at Digital Life

If you made it through the Digital Life expo in New York City without breaking a sweat, you weren't playing hard enough. Games involving running, jumping, dancing, kicking, and fishing were everywhere, from the perennial Dance Dance Revolution competition to the interactive virtual bowling at the Xavix booth. We took a walk around the show floor to check out these physically interactive games, the crowds they drew, and their ability to make you sweat.

Xavix Sports Games Price: $99 list for the Xavix port plus one game (Baseball, Bowling, or Tennis Sweat Level: Shimmer Xavix reps call it a "Lifestyle System," but we call it a rollicking good time. The Xavix port ($79.99 by itself) has four available titles right now: Baseball, Tennis, Bowling, and Golf, and a Bass Fishing game will be out next year. Each game comes with the software and appropriate equipment, whether it's a plastic golf club, bowling ball, or fishing pole. The equipment interacts with the port through swing sensors, optical modules, infrared, or RF, depending on the game. And, we saw enough adults strike out in the baseball game to know that it's not just for kids.

Xavix Jackie Chan Fitness Games Price: $89.99 (list) Sweat Level: Drenched Xavix also has a line of fitness games with Jackie Chan's name attached. Powerboxing utilizes—you guessed it—boxing gloves, and there's also a floor pad called the J-Mat for running and jumping games. Lead Jackie Chan through the action-filled streets by running and jumping over obstacles, or play simpler games like Jackie Chan Dash, which counts how many running steps you can take in 10 seconds (the show record: 138!). Plus, the Xavix Jackie Chan system can count how many calories you burn daily, weekly, and monthly using the games, so you can integrate the games into your fitness routine and track results.

Hot Seat Price: $399 to $1200, depending on accessories. Sweat Level: Dry as a bone Hot Seat incorporates your game console or PC, a racing seat, 5.1-surround sound, an all-important cup holder, and whatever monitor and gaming accessories you want to use. We used it in conjunction with our PC to play GTR with a steering wheel and pedals attached. The immersive look, feel, and sound of the setup completely sucks you into the game. It's pricy and it requires some floor space, but the Hot Seat takes racing games and flight simulators to the next level.

RedOctane Guitar Hero Price: $69.99 list, available November 8th. Sweat Level: Chance of moisture if you're the rocking-out type RedOctane's GuitarHero is perfect for releasing the Rock God in all of us. Plug the guitar control into a PS2 and you're all set to rock out to the 45 available tracks, from Joan Jett to Boston to Franz Ferdinand. The game is structured like Dance Dance Revolution, with button variations scrolling down the screen that must be played in precise rhythm. Hit your notes, and you'll be rewarding with screaming crowds, difficult solo breaks, and your avatar will smash your guitar at the end of your set. Everything about the game screams "Hair Band," and the whammy bar lets expert axe-slingers bring the house down.

Dance Dance Revolution Extreme 2 Price: $40 (not including pad) Sweat Level: Dripping The perennial, oft-imitated classic still drew the biggest crowds at the Digital Life show. For the hardcore DDR fans, all those spend arcade tokens paid off as they performed dizzying footwork to a huge audience.

Dance Dance Revolution Mario Mix Price: $49 (list) with included floor pad, available at the end of October. Sweat Level: Glisten GameCube's version of DDR has Mario and Luigi dancing their way through various missions and levels to defeat Bowser. The floor pad concept hasn't come too far since Nintendo's Track & Field game utilized one in the late '80s, but it's fun to cut the rug to old-school Mario soundtracks. One Nintendo rep described as the soundtrack "Mario songs with a bit of Beethoven thrown in." When you get sick of dancing, there also a Whack-A-Mole game.
Super Arena Price: Not available in the US; release date unknown Sweat Level: Glisten Chinese game maker Ghuangzhou Jetion Computech wasn't at the show to peddle their wares, but Intel was using the Super Arena game to show off an Intel Powered PC, and we were impressed. The Super Arena system uses a floor pad in tandem with sensors on players' wrists to track movement in fighting games like Tekken and Street Fighter. The game pad is a bit different than the usual back-forward-side-to-side mats, and the wrist sensors mean you don't just have to kick your opponent, you can punch and chop him, too. It works with PS2 and PCs, and you can find out more at www.vigaar.com.
Copyright © 2005 Ziff Davis Media Inc. All Rights Reserved. Originally appearing in PC Magazine.
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